Friday, March 24, 2017

Swing into the March-April Issue of Minnesota Cities Magazine

Spring is finally upon us along with the March-April issue of Minnesota Cities magazine!

Check out how some fire departments in Minnesota are using the “duty crew” model to meet the demands of modern-day firefighting in this issue’s cover story, Duty Crews: Helping Fire Departments Manage the Modern World.

Other highlights:

Making sure that children participating in city programs feel safe is a top priority for any city official. In Child Abuse Prevention: Keeping Kids Safe in the City, League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust Field Consultant Tracy Stille describes thorough routines to protect kids, as well as your city’s reputation.

When the City of St. Cloud spotted a not-so-appealing brown sediment floating around in the Mississippi River, the city banded together with its community to clean up its drinking water source. See how St. Cloud stepped up to the plate to keep its own drinking water clean and to protect the water of cities downstream in How a City Rallied Together for Clean Water.

You can also find out what LMC Executive Director David Unmacht has to say about the role of citizen volunteers, catch up on Belle Plaine's simple but successful public safety program in Ideas in Action, and get ideas from the cities of Wahkon and Wanamingo in Two-Way Street: How Does Your City Honor Veterans?

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Predictions for the Not-So-Distant Future of Tech and Cities

We sat down earlier this year with LMC’s new chief information officer, Melissa “Mel” Reeder to get her big-picture predictions for the not-so-distant future of tech and cities. We had a few “huh?” moments, but Mel is a pretty down-to-earth talker and was happy to translate her tech-speak into the following visions of what could lie ahead. Prepare to be inspired: 

Prediction 1

Open data: Cities will branch out into the role of providing the public a platform to access and mine public data. By thoughtfully structuring data in a standardized way, cities can make large sets of information usable and relevant to users. This allows users the freedom and flexibility to reference the data for their own creative applications—and could get cities out of the app-making business (doesn’t that sound nice?). In addition, centralized data will allow for more de-siloing of information and activity. When geographic data “borders” disappear, cross-jurisdiction collaboration follows.

Prediction 2
Personalization: Cities will continue providing more personalized services, allowing residents to register or opt-in to receiving tailored information, whether it’s about traffic or the hours of a neighborhood park. More and more, citizens will receive convenient texts or email notices when they need to renew a permit or pay a traffic ticket. Using pictures as well as text, public employees will be able to respond directly to requests, telling citizens when and how they resolved their issues. How’s that for service?

Prediction 3
Predictive analytics (Wait! Wait! Don’t glaze over yet!): By layering different types of seemingly unrelated data to see how different systems may be interacting, cities can address these intersections before they turn into big problems or missed chances. Example: comparing data from apps that crowd-source popular running routes to your city’s plans for where to locate trail amenities or zoning for pedestrian-friendly commercial. These “preemptive interventions” could be in any department or combo of departments’ purviews—infrastructure, public health, public safety, you name it. By better pairing intervention with need, these analytics will create new efficiencies in many city services.

Bonus prediction: Mel is fascinated by “Hyperloop” technology—individual transport capsules capable of traveling up to 800 miles an hour by magnet, which could theoretically allow you to get from the tippy top of the state to the southern border of Minnesota in about 45 minutes. Hey, a CIO can dream.


Monday, March 6, 2017

Advocating for Cities: What’s Been Happening and What You Can Do

We’re already two months into the 2017 Legislative Session! While it's always a busy place, more bill introductions than usual in the House and Senate=even more activity related to the city issues you care about. Below is an update on three issues that the League has been working on.

Small Cell Technology
Small cell technology in public right of way has been a hot topic in the legislature for the League so far. The League is currently opposed to the bill. While discussions are occurring with the proponents of the bill, there are still areas of concern including liability, installation, expenses, and impacts on governance.
Data Practices
Part of a potential omnibus data practices bill, this legislation would reclassify video, audio, and other recordings of government employees, independent contractors, or volunteers from "private" to "public" data. The League opposes this bill. One reason for this opposition is that personnel data that will continue to be considered private on paper would be considered public on video.
Workforce Housing
Cities facing a shortage of housing that would allow employers to expand their businesses should be aware of League-supported proposals to provide tax increment financing (TIF) and tax credits for workforce housing development. Workforce housing has been a priority of the League since 2015.

How can you advocate for these and other issues impacting your city?
Advocating for your city can take many shapes, but being able to tell your city’s story is one of the most effective ways to make sure your voice is heard and to educate others about what's happening in your city. It's also important to continuously build relationships with lawmakers, the media, and the people in your community. You can find resources and information on how to advocate on the League's website.

Join your city colleagues to make an impact at the Capitol!
Whether you’re new to advocating for your city or you’re experienced in getting your story out, join more than 140 of your city colleagues at the Capitol on March 23 for the 2017 Legislative Conference for Cities in St. Paul.

Start the day early with a pre-conference session reviewing the best ways to advocate, then hear from the League’s intergovernmental relations team, members of the media, and state government leaders as you get up to date on the League’s legislative priorities, Minnesota’s political landscape, and more. Plus, you’ll have opportunities to tour the Capitol, meet with your legislators, and connect with your city colleagues.

Online registration is closing soon! Explore the full agenda and more: www.lmc.org/legconf17blog

Do you have stories about advocating for your city? Share them in the comments below!


Friday, February 17, 2017

'I Love My City!' A Second Helping from the LMC Board

In honor of Valentine's Day week, we reached out to the League of Minnesota Cities Board of Directors with a simple question—what do you love about your city? We got back plenty of answers, each one different and a reflection of the city and city official!

See the first scoop of city love here: 'I Love My City!' These LMC Board Members Tell Us Why.

Read on for more highlights from their responses:

"I love Hopkins because of the great downtown we have and the great people that make
up this city. There is a lot of pride." Mike Mornson, city administrator of Hopkins, MN
"We love our quarries, our central Minnesota location, our farmland, and our diverse
population. Pictured above is my favorite 'gem,' Transformer Quarry." Shaunna Johnson,
city administrator of Waite Park, MN.
"Bloomington somehow manages to feel like a small town (residents are involved, informed, and passionate),
a comfortable suburb, and a bustling big city all at once." Tim Busse, city councilmember in Bloomington
"I love St. Anthony Village because we are a small 'village' in the middle of the big city. ... Collaboration is in our DNA, and I know that we are stronger through our many partnerships." Mark Casey, city manager of St. Anthony Village
"I love Carver because it preserves and balances the natural environment, heritage, and growth opportunities in the community. Over half of the city’s land area is conserved within the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, the downtown has nearly one-hundred buildings with late 19th century architecture preserved on the National Register of Historic Places, all while balancing new growth." Brent Mareck, city manager of Carver, MN
"I love my city because it has a ‘can-do’ attitude. We have great people who are not afraid to invest in our
needs and take care of our infrastructure." Dave Smiglewski, mayor of Granite Falls, MN
Photos submitted by LMC board members

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

'I Love My City!' These LMC Board Members Tell Us Why

In honor of Valentine's Day week, we reached out to the League of Minnesota Cities Board of Directors with a simple question—what do you love about your city? We got back plenty of answers, each one different and a reflection of the city and city official!

Plenty of board members love the cities they live and work in because they're darn proud of all their cities have to offer. Take a road trip of these locales to see cities of all sizes that are retaining and growing businesses, offering places to play and enjoy the outdoors, and delivering city services with an eye on smart investments.

But board members also pointed out plenty of things that really say, "It's personal." From local lore to a good vibe with the neighbors, a sense of community wins the day when it comes to winning their hearts.

Read on to see some highlights in their own words! And see a second helping of love for cities here:
'I Love My City!' A Second Helping from the LMC Board.


I love my city because it is just the right size! It is small enough that we know each other and we can all count on a neighborly presence in good times (athletics and community projects/events) as well as support in bad times (fundraising events and a helping hand)! Yet it is big enough that we have exciting things going on." Tina Rennemo, city administrator of Baudette, MN

"I love my city because everyone cares about our community, and many citizens and groups are working
on ways to keep our community moving forward." Steve Nasby, city administrator of Windom, MN.

"I love my city because Olivia is a very distinctive small town. There definitely is a feeling of
neighbor helping neighbor in our community. Olivia has everything needed in a small community ...
[including] an award-winning coffee shop!"  Sue Hilgert, mayor of Olivia, MN
"'I'm from Bemidji and I couldn't be prouder … and if you don't believe me, I'll yell a little louder!' That old cheer from my days at Bemidji High School still rings true today! I love my city and I'm always willing to talk about Bemidji with anyone who is willing to listen. I enjoy describing how this former lumber town has rebuilt itself ... without sacrificing its “lumberjack” character." Ron Johnson, city councilmember in Bemidji, MN
Photos submitted by LMC board members

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Future Cities Competition Brings City Services to a Galaxy Far, Far Away

Ever wanted to design your own city from scratch? Middle-schoolers from around the state recently had that opportunity at the 2017 Regional Future City Competition. Nearly 50 teams of middle-schoolers gathered at Dunwoody Institute in Minneapolis to show off the city dioramas they built and to present information about how their cities were planned.

The League had the opportunity again this year to judge the “Building Quality Communities” special award. League judges looked for cities that promoted ideas to improve and maintain a high quality of life for residents. Many teams had outstanding ideas for this category, which made our decision difficult.

Three of Basabillion's student planners use the force
of good city planning and local government services.
This year’s recipient of the “Building Qualities Communities” award is “Basabillion,” designed by students from Black Hawk Middle School, located in Eagan. The team was very proud of their fictional city, which was inspired by the Star Wars planet of Endor.

According to members of the winning team, Basabillion has a native population of Ewoks (think teddy bears) as well as human citizens that share the city. The design of Basabillion started with solid infrastructure and services to create a better community. Residents can get from place to place by a taxi carpool service run through an app. The streets light up at night and are intended to be pedestrian friendly. For safety, the city uses community policing and plain-clothed officers. There is universal healthcare and a high minimum wage for all citizens. Citizens enjoy top-notch museums and history centers for fun things to do.

One of the most unique features of the city of Basabillion is its sense of community. The students designed public gathering spaces and programs to promote engagement between residents. Humans and the Ewok population live together in respect and harmony.

Black Hawk Middle School students did a fantastic job of designing a thriving community in their city of Basabillion. Not to mention that it’s always good to know we have a young generation of Star Wars enthusiasts.

All the students displayed great passion and talent for designing their cities. We would like to congratulate all the teams at the Future Cities competition. We hope to see you involved in local government one day!

See recaps of past Future City Regional Finals and the Building Quality Communities Award winners:

What Makes 'Crystal Waters' Sparkle? Future City Competition 2016

Future City 2015 and the Building Quality Communities Award

Cities of the Future as Imagined by Students of Today (2014)

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Spotted: Minnesota City Officials at the 2017 Leadership Conferences

Hundreds of city officials across Minnesota started the new year running by attending one of the 2017 Leadership Conferences!



Newly elected officials gathered in both Mankato and Bloomington (with one training yet to go in February) to get the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in their new municipal roles. Meanwhile, experienced officials connected in Bloomington to discuss race equity and how to ensure city policies shape our communities in a way that all feel welcome.


An attendee chats with workshop presenter and Shorewood Finance
Director Bruce DeJong during a break at the Newly Elected
Officials Leadership Conference in Mankato, held Jan. 20-21.

Topics covered at the Newly Elected Officials Leadership Conference
include a 20,000-foot view of their responsibilities as a city leader,
finance fundamentals and the budgeting process, the ethical responsibilities
and legal realities of public office, and how to create more collaborative councils.


Attorney Korine Land reviews a city council's authority and limitations
with nearly 200 newly elected officials who attended the Bloomington location .


Julie Nelson, senior vice president at the Center for Social
Inclusion (CSI), welcomes attendees to the 2017 Leadership Conference
for Experienced Officials, while her co-presenter Glenn Harris
(R, sitting on the stage) - president of CSI - listens in.

More than 100 city officials from across Minnesota
gathered in Bloomington Jan. 27-28 to focus on race equity and
discuss how we can make our communities more inclusive.


Presenter Glenn Harris leads attendees in an exercise on race equity.


A big thanks to all of you who participated in one of our 2017 Leadership Conferences! And we're looking forward to seeing even more of you at the final Newly Elected Officials Leadership Conference (Feb. 24-25 in Brainerd).

Here's to a great new year for *all* Minnesota's cities and leaders!


Photo credit: LMC staff